The Prowler (1951 film)

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The Prowler
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Losey
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo
Hugo Butler
Story by Robert Thoeren
Hans Wilhelm
Starring Van Heflin
Evelyn Keyes
Music by Lyn Murray
Cinematography Arthur C. Miller
Edited by Paul Weatherwax
Horizon Pictures
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • May 25, 1951 (1951-05-25) (United States)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Prowler is a 1952 black-and-white thriller film noir directed by Joseph Losey that stars Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes. The film was produced by Sam Spiegel (as S.P. Eagle) and was written by Dalton Trumbo under a pseudonym.[1]


Webb Garwood (Van Heflin), a disgruntled cop, is called to investigate a voyeur by Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes). Her husband works nights as an overnight radio personality. Webb falls in love with the young and attractive married woman.

Obsessed, he woos her despite her initial reluctance and the two begin an adulterous affair. Webb finds out about an insurance policy on the husband's life. He dreams up a scheme in which a phantom "prowler" would be a good scapegoat if Susan's husband should happen to die mysteriously. After becoming a prowler himself, Webb "investigates" and then commits the murder, making it look like a tragic accident with he and the husband shooting at each other as each suspected the other of being the prowler. Webb's ruse fools a coroner's jury, thanks in part to both Susan and Webb testifying that they didn't know each other prior to her husband's death. Susan initially suspects Webb of foul play, but becomes convinced of his innocence and subsequently marries him.

Shortly after the wedding, Susan informs Webb that she has been pregnant for four months. This is problematic because the date of the child's conception would prove the two had lied in their testimony to cover up their previous relationship, and would thus suggest that Webb's killing of Susan's husband had not been an accident. The two run away to a ghost town named Calico to have the baby without anyone back home knowing. Susan goes into premature labor and Webb finds a doctor, Dr. William James (Wheaton Chambers). Susan realizes that Webb intends to kill Dr. James to preserve their secret, so she warns the doctor who then escapes with the newborn.

Susan tells Webb that she knows what he had planned to do and that she now realizes that he intentionally murdered her husband. Realizing the doctor will send the police after him, Webb drives away, leaving his wife in Calico alone. On the way out of town, he find the road blocked by his former partner on the police force who was coming to pay a visit. While attempting to get around his friend's car, Webb sees several police cars coming so he heads for the hills on foot. He refuses to stop and a sheriff's deputy shoots him dead.



Critical response[edit]

Critical reception for the film has been mostly positive. Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film, writing, "A neat noir thriller that has a slight variation on the Double Indemnity theme, this time it is the guy who is the seducer. This is a Joseph Losey American film, made before his self-exile from the 1950s HUAC witch hunt days when he fled to England. It is the director's aim to highlight social issues and class differences. They will play a major role in the motif, adding to the usual noir ones of dark character and sexual misconduct. Dalton Trumbo, the blacklisted writer, is the uncredited cowriter of the script."[2]

Leonard Maltin awarded the film 3 out of a possible 4 stars, praising its camerawork and production design and calling the film "Unusually nasty and utterly unpredictable".[3]


  1. ^ The Prowler at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 2, 2000. Accessed: July 8, 2013.
  3. ^ Jonathan Harchick (28 October 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. Createspace Independent Pub. ISBN 978-1-4936-2083-8. 

External links[edit]